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and he had been decorated with the purple by Clement XIII. the last of the fanatical Popes; whence he not only did not appear formidable in the eyes of the zealots, but even afforded them room for conceiving some hopes from his favour.
Before we proceed, it may not be improper to premise the following sketch of Braschi, drawn by the intelligent Cardinal Bernis, at a period when there was no appearance that the former would ever become Pius VI.
John Angelo Braschi was born at Cesena, December the 1717. The bounty of Benedict XIV. had opened to him the way to promotion: for, having employed him in certain affairs, he rewarded him with a canonry of St. Peter's; by means of which he procured a place in the prelature. Clement XIII. afterward nominated him treasurer of the apostolic chamber. Although his character as to talents is universally known, his rapid rise has been attributed to the favour of the Jesuits, to which it was even said he had too much sacrificed. The present Pope, it would seem, after having elevated him to the hat, has not continued to shew him the same confidence as before his promotion; and there have not been wanting those who put a construction on this change, which is little favourable to the Cardinal. He is undoubtedly very active, and a man of multifarious attainments. From whatever motives might proceed the temporary reduction of his popularity to the mere regard due to his rank, he is not supposed to be of a temper adapted calmly to brook this alteration in his fame. He has sense enough to seize the opportunities of rendering himself necessary, or, at least, of giving himself consequence. His character for being too enterprising, indeed, will always be very injurious to him. He is a man whose interest is to be secured in a conclave.'
Braschi wss chosen Pope on the 14th of February 1775, by the style of Pius VI. The people of Rome did not at first appear disposed to applaud this election. They applied to him the famous Latin line which, composed during the papacy of Alexander VI., called to recollection that Rome had ever been ruined by sovereigns bearing the title of Sextus:
Semper sub Sextis perdita Roma fuit.
Sextus Tarquinius had by his tyranny provoked the expulsion of the Roman kings:-Urban VI. had commenced the great schism of the West: -Alexander VI. had shocked all Rome and the whole world by his crimes; and Pius VI. has but too much confirmed the presentiment to which his title gave rise. When it was proclaimed in the election-chamber that the choice had fallen on him, he dropt on his knees, and breathed forth a prayer in so touching a manner, that all the attendants were bathed in tears. Then turning to the Cardinals, he said:
Venerable fathers, your assembly is terminated, but horv unfortunate is the result of it for me!" Was this only an affected
grimace, or did he anticipate the destiny which awaited him at so distant a period ?
The beginning of his reign was very circumspect and com- › mendable: but he soon afforded reason for complaint amongthe zealots, who had affected to regard him as their creature. They: wished to make him the instrument of their particular views:but, instead of releasing Ricci, the General of the Jesuits, with some of his most violent partisans, who were confined in the castle of St. Angelo, Pius VI, had the courage to declare that, with respect to them, the law should have its course. This. apparent courage in his Holiness, however, was the mere consequence of fear, inspired by the Spanish court; which, to-, gether with that of France, kept a watchful eye on all the proceedings of the Pope, that might have been interpreted to favour the Jesuits. He was, therefore, not a little embarrassed at the conduct of the King of Prussia. Frederic the Great, it seems, was somewhat piqued at not having been consulted on the suppression of the order of Jesuits, who were numerous in his dominions; and he therefore not only granted protection to that order, but set forth, in a Declaration, that the Pope. would not oppose the continuance of the society in Prussia. When this Declaration was shewn to the Pope, he said that it was out of his power to revoke the decision of his predecessor, on account of the krious opposition of the catholic courts: S but he solemnly promised never to denounce the society, forming in Prussia, as irregular. The ministers of Spain and France, informed of this singular promise, which militated against the above-mentioned Bull, reproached Pius with duplicity. Fre. deric, however, in return, did the Pope the honour of requesting to be acknowleged by him as king of Prussia.
The difficulties in which Pius VI. was involved with the Empress of Russia, on the same account, were equally distressing, and often humiliating. A noble Lithuanian, who was Bishop of Mallo (in partibus) and apostolic visitor, did not scruple to give to the powers conferred on him by the Pope the strongest extension, in permitting the Jesuits of White Russia to take novices; which, he pretended, was in conformity to the intentions of Clement XIV. and Pius VI. He had contrived to make the Empress espouse his cause with a tenacity, and even with an haughtiness, which she seemed to reserve only for affairs of greater importance. She once caused an answer to a letter from Pius to be inscribed "Catherine II. Empress of all the Russias, to Pius VI. Bishop of Rome, and Pope in his district." This business ended, as might be expected, by the Pope's acquiescence in the demands of the Empress, after the usual equivocations, qualifications, and mental reservations
of the holy see. The Jesuits being thus made the subject of a slight, though unequal, contest between so mighty a sovereign and the Bishop of Rome, they recovered a sort of existence, and enjoyed undisturbed the protection of Catharine; who, in 1780, even condescended to visit their college, the foundation of which they owed to her munificence.
The author dwells more particularly on these circumstances relative to the Jesuits, because the principal features in the character of Pius VI. are to be found in his conduct towards that order. He never consented to their proscription but by word of mouth; and never ventured openly either to protect or to persecute them. This conduct augmented his natural irre solution, and often forced him to that duplicity which is the consequence of weakness. Yet this pontiff had an excessive passion for glory, which was the principal source both of his faults and his misfortunes; for that passion, if not joined with strength of mind, often degenerates into puerile vanity. He was ambitious of illustrating his reign in every respect, and of attaching his name to all enterprises which attracted public attention. This unguarded self-love created for him frequent mortifications. Descended from a family scarcely noble, he was extremely ambitious of elevating it. To a very modest coat of arms, which he had inherited from his ancestors, he vainly added an eagle, fleurs-de-lys, and stars. The Italians, who are more apt, perhaps, than any other nation, with merciless avidity to seize all occasions for ridicule, made the fol lowing bitter verses on these pompous armorial additions: Redde aquilam imperio, Francorum lilia regi : Sidera redde polo; cætera, Prasche, tua.*
Wherever an opportunity offered of affixing his name together with his arms, he gladly availed himself of it; and the most trivial repairs of a building were not thought too unimportant for the display of this vanity.
It was calculated that, in the year 1736, this rage for seizing the slightest pretext for pepetuating his name had cost the state a very large sum; (200,000 scudi;) and to this incurable vanity, rather than to his piety or his taste for the fine arts, the public were inclined to attribute his idea of erecting a vestry near the church of St. Peter. He there displayed a magnificence which may dazzle at first sight, but never can conceal its numerous faults from the eyes of competent judges. It cost no less than
*To the empire its eagle restore,
And to France let her lillies incline,
sixteen hundred thousand Roman scudi.-Inscriptions, as may be imagined, were not spared in this edifice. Over the principal entrance, is the following:
Quod ad Templi Vaticani ornamentum PUBLICA vota flagitabant, Pius VI. Pontifex maximus, fecit," &c.*
How great must have been his chagrin, when he was informed that the following lines had been found written underneath :
Publica! mentiris. Non publica vota fuére;
The famous museum Pio-Clementinum, which, before the robberies committed by the French in Italy, formed one of the finest and most useful decorations of the Vatican, entitled Pius VI. to greater praise, and bore his name with more justice. It was he who first suggested to Clement XIV. the idea of forming, in the Vatican, a repository for antique statues; and, after he had himself ascended the summit of ecclesiastical greatness, he pursued that brilliant project. To embellish the Quirinal palace, where he resided during the fine season of the year, he, in 1783, at great expence, caused to be placed before it the obelisk, which had long lain overturned near the Scala Santa. His flatterers made this the subject of many fulsome eulogies; yet it was certain, that the sums expended on the occasion might have been far better employed in relieving the pressing wants of the people. A wag, therefore, thinking this a fair opportunity for giving a lecture to the most holy father, wrote the following scripture-text underneath the obelisk:
"Command that these stones be made bread."
The desire of placing his name every where, and having his munificence celebrated on the most trifing accounts, has occasioned him more than one sarcasm of this sort. It is well known that, at Rome, no bread was baked but small round loaves of about two or three ounces weight, which were called pagnotta, and sold for two bajocs each. The price never varied: but, in proportion as wheat was cheaper or dearer, the size of the pagnotta increased or diminished. At a time when the dearness of bread-corn had compelled the Board of Provisions greatly to reduce the magnitude of the loaves, one of those malcontents, who are the less dangerous because their gall is vented in pleasantry, conceived the thought of placing in the hands of Pasquin a pagnotta of excessive smallness, and of writing beneath the statue those pompous words, so often repeated in Rome: MUNIFICENTIA PII SEXTI.'
*“This ornament of the Vatican Church, which was demanded by the public voice, was begun and finished by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius VI. in the year," &c.
"The public voice demanded? 'Tis an egregious lie!
But it was particularly in the exercise of his papal functions that his vanity shone, and his self-love was gratified; and it must be owned that, in this respect, nature had favoured him as much as the ce remonious pomp of the Roman Church. He was one of the handsomest men of his time. To height of stature he joined dignified and engaging features, and a florid complexion, the brightness of which had very little suffered by age. His papal robes he could put on and wear with so much dexterity, that they deprived him of none of his personal advantages. His forehead was bald: but behind, and on the sides of his head, he had some bushy locks of a dazzling white ness, which were combed with so much care as to give him an air at once noble and venerable. He had also one of the best-shaped legs that Italy could produce, and was very vain of it. Always dressed in the neatest shoes and stockings, he was not willing that this part of his person should be entirely concealed from the view of others by his long papal garments. He therefore took care to lift them up on one side, so that one of his legs was completely visible.'
His very enemies, however, allow that the purity of his morals was unquestionable; otherwise, as this author observes, if the amours of a temporal sovereign cannot escape the curiosity of his numerous observers, how could a Pope, whose every step is counted, hide himself from the severe eye of scrupu losity, or the clear-sighted eye of malignity, and cover his secret intrigues with an impenetrable veil?
Pius VI. passed all his time between his religious duties, his ca binet, his museum, and the Vatican library. He very seldom went out, and then was always attended. He had no taste for the country, nor for any of those innocent amusements which the gravest men allow themselves as relaxation. He spent the fine season in the Quiinal palace, and the remainder of the year in the Vatican. Given up to serious occupations, or to the functions of his office, he uniformly disdained frivolous conversations; and he fled rather than sought the society of women.'
His conduct as Pore, then, the author admits, was undoubt edly exemplary: but, as a MAN and a SOVEREIGN, he was open to censure. He shewed himself exceedingly ignorant in the common concerns of life, and especially in politics. Yet what might be charged on him as duplicity was only irresolution and natural inconsistency. No one of his secretaries of state could ever flatter himself with the possession of his entire confidence. Lively and impetuous, sometimes to excess, he required to be checked by fear, or induced to recollect himself by kind language; which, while it proved the interest which the adviser took in his affairs, spared his pride. Cardinal Bernis, who ever was his sincerest friend, once said of him: I incessantly watch over him, as a child of an excellent but too lively disposition; which, if care were not taken, would throw itself out of the window.